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Handwritten Letter – A Month of Letters

Image 2When I went to the post office yesterday a letter was in my box. A handwritten letter!

I ripped it open like a child on Christmas. I was so excited.

And right now I’m drinking the tea.

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To think that it was a couple of days ago when this friend put pen to paper and took the time to drop this letter in the mailbox, fills my soul with warmth on this cold winter’s day. That someone cared enough about me to take that effort blessed me.

That blessing was not diminished knowing that she is participating in A Month of Letters. A challenge to handwrite a letter everyday for the month of February.

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Today I’m going to write to my mother. Who are you going to write to?

2 Thessalonians 3: 17 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the sign of genuineness in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. 18 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

http://lettermo.com

 

 

 

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Christmas Past

One of my favourite pictures, circa 1963, is this one of me and my Mum in front of the Christmas tree. It’s badly taken, that’s for sure. Probably from my Grampa Percy’s camera.

When I went to touch it up in photoshop I noticed that my Grandmother Winifred appears reflected in the living room window of my childhood home. Kind of spooky, considering my mother now looks exactly like her.christmas0001(A four generational picture if you take into account that when a girlchild is born all the possible eggs waiting for fertilization and subsequent progeny are within her.)

This picture gives me much joy. My mother always made sure I had a lovely dress to wear on Christmas. Something, no doubt, she herself had sewn for me.

On the tree is a Santa Claus ornament made from a recycled toilet paper tube and cotton baton. Original tinsel which was painstakingly placed piece by piece (no throwing in our family). And taken off the same way, individually piece by piece and stored carefully for the next year.

My mother always took great effort to make a lovely Christmas for us.

Today I’m taking down our real cut Christmas tree. It has been a perfect little tree, not dropping nary a needle over the time it has adorned out house over the festivities. Forty dollars, a small amount to pay for a little Christmas cheer and to support Ontario agriculture.

And as I pack away the treasures of family ornaments I can’t barely keep from crying knowing that my mother’s experience of Christmas is immensely diminished due to advanced dementia.

Even though she is but a ghost of who she once was I am eternally grateful for the memories she gave me of Christmas.

 

 

Bolivian Christmas Creche

Bolivian Creche

Today I unwrapped my teeny creche scene and set it up. Little clay figurines I bought in Bolivia. Little alpaca shepherds wearing traditional knitted alpaca toques with earflaps and playing their zampogna (panpipes).  Mary wearing a traditional women’s boler hat.

And Baby Jesus smiling from ear to ear.

In 1991 I was afforded an amazing opportunity to travel to Bolivia. At the time I was the Canadian sales agent for a women’s knitting co-operative run by the Bolivian Baptist Union. The project was called Project of Andean Community Artisans, (Projecto Andean Comunidad Artesano) or P.A.C.A. In both Spanish and English it was a brilliant play on words, seeing as they were using alpaca fibre for knitting.

badgePACA employed village women to knit sweaters and sew other things from colourful aguayo cloth to export to Canada.

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enroute to Corque

The purpose of the trip was to educate myself to better understand the country, the women and the products. And what an education!

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Knitting group at Sipesipe

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the ‘raw’ material, llamas and alpacas

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At the PACA office in Cochabamba with Miriam

All these women were trying to support their families with their knitting. I tried to sell their sweaters and socks in Canada. This was before the internet!

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set up at a craft sale in London, Ontario

At the time we were existing on a pastor’s small wage. The trip to Bolivia was a gift I will never forget. The only thing I could basically afford to bring home was my tiny creche set bought in this market stall.

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And a set of chullus, a musical instrument or shaker. Made with a ribbon or strip of aguayo to which there are tied several trimmed goat, sheep, llama or alpaca toenails. When shaken, the sound produced suggests that of wind and falling rain.

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At Christmas I remember with great fondness all those village women and their knitting needles, balancing their wee ones on their knees. And those wee ones were beaming, just like the Baby Jesus in my manger scene.

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Bouddi National Park, NSW, Australia

You want a hike with spectacular ocean views? Visit Bouddi National Park in New South Wales, Australia. It is located in the Central Coast area, far enough away from the Pacific Highway not to be too touristy.

We took the Bouddi Coastal Walk from Maitland Bay to Putty Beach, almost 5 KM.Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 11.41.52 AM

The uplifting laughter of the kookaburras greeted us as we pulled into the parking lot, perhaps because we got mooned.

Even though the sign says "No Unclad Bathing" we were presented with a bare bum as we pulled into the parking lot.

Even though the sign says “No Unclad Bathing” we were presented with a bare bum as we pulled into the parking lot.

Listed as a “medium difficulty” hike, this path would be much more difficult if not for the stairs, railings, bridges and boardwalks which have been installed in recent years.

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The walk down to Maitland Bay beach, 195 metres is through rugged gullies, dry eucalypt forests, gum trees, emerging spring flowers, and bottle brush bushes of all types.

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gum tree sap

IMG_0148 IMG_0147 Just over 1KM straight down means you have to come up again! But the very steep climb was worth the effort.

Maitland Bay, named after the shipwrecked Maitland

Maitland Bay, named after the shipwrecked S S Maitland, in the Tasman Sea of the South Pacific Ocean

A lovely deserted sandstone-coloured beach awaited us. A gentle breeze off the ocean helped me to cool off. Tessalations and sandstone formations abound. I could have spent hours photographing. Thanks to our Canadian-born guide, Rossanne Hyde, who pulled out morning tea on cue, just at the right spot!

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I was glad not to meet the huge spiders who claimed these holes as home.

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The path continued along the ridge, up and down (quite literally) for a few kilometres, deaking in and out of cool forest and dry desert type vegetation. Stunning vistas at almost every lookout.

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We passed beautiful flannel flowers, Actinotus helianthi. Soft furry-down daisy-like flowers, exactly the texture of flannelette.

IMG_0192 IMG_0194 IMG_0201Breathtaking views of Lion Island and North Sydney in the distance.

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viewThe path and boardwalk continues along the ridge at dizzying heights, looking down at least 50 metres to the crashing surf below.

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I was just really glad there were railings along certain spots!  Apparently 30 years ago this trail had none.IMG_0261

Local brides climb all the way up here in their gowns to get photographs taken.

IMG_0239And more tessalations!IMG_0244This sandstone platform was probably one of the highlights of the hike near Gerrin Point lookout.

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tessalated T-shirt to match

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As we came down the final steepest incline Putty Beach greeted us. A wide expanse of sand and surf over 1KM long.

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All in all a spectacular way to spend three hours in Australia!

Airlie Beach

As you may have figured from reading my posts, I am a shorewalker. I love the sound of the waves. (That’s why I named my Etsy shop WaveSong). But most of all I love beachcombing.

IMG_0114Most of the beaches I have been on while on my trip to Australia have been pure sand.  And not much else. Not that pure sand isn’t lovely and all. But the treasure-hunter self in me is always more fulfilled by flotsam and jetsam.

IMG_1523So I was tickled to find something more on the little tiny natural bit of sand at Airlie Beach, gateway to the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland.

Low and behold I look down and find these. What I might call the Australian version of my beloved Lucky StonesIMG_0110 These are a shell-like disc with a natural hole. Perfect as supplies for the textile-artist in me.IMG_0117I was told that most Aussies don’t sit on the beach in Queensland. That might be because of the crocodiles and the hazardous marine stingers!  Good call.IMG_0113Thus the bottle of vinegar supplied by the local authorities.

So they built a beautiful swimming lagoon right next to the beach instead!IMG_0086 IMG_0087 I have been so impressed with the beauty of the public spaces in Australia. Obviously it’s because they live outside all year, and don’t spend their public budgets on snow removal.

Public spaces are smartly designed and fitted out with lots of sculpture and art. And Airlie Beach did not disappoint in this regard. Like these sidewalk mosaics by Robyn Muller, called Lowtide Clams.IMG_0093

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Children’s wading area nicely covered with shade.

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The whole area has a lovely boardwalk too. Including stovetops for “putting on the Barbie”, fresh water showers, toilets, change rooms, benches, picnic tables, alcohol free zones, playground equipment with a wheelchair-accessible swing and sand approaches to the swimming area. And lifeguards.IMG_0121

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Even a permanent ping pong table.

Airlie Beach really caters to guests and has some typical tourist trappings, but not kitschy. It is a haven for the wealthy and the poor backpacker alike.

Have you ever been to a beach like this?